Built in 1928 as the steam ferry Armadillo, but later converted to diesel, she carried passengers across the Tamar River between Plymouth in Devon and Cornwall's Cremyll and Mount Edgcumbe estate for more than 80 years.
A collision in 2013 took her out of action, but a local group vowed to save Northern Belle. The Northern Belle Trust took over ownership of the vessel in January 2019, with the aim of restoring her and returning her to service on the Tamar, possibly to be used as a floating classroom. A Heritage Lottery Fund bid has had to be abandoned as, in the wake of Covid-19, the funds have been reallocated to existing grant applications. However, they will still go ahead with a planned feasibility survey to establish whether her restoration would be viable. This will be made publicly available, once social distancing restrictions allow and the Trust hopes this report will be of future benefit to her new owners.
Full statement, 11th May 2020:
"Recent events have proved to be extremely challenging for a large number of charitable organisations who have seen their income decimated by the national requirement for social distancing.
The Northern Belle Trust is no exception. Income that we had planned from a number of sources has evaporated, quite literally overnight. Ongoing work with the Heritage Lottery Fund to prepare a successful bid has had to be abandoned as the fund is now providing emergency funding to existing applicants; the Northern Belle Trust is not in this category.
Plans to hold several community events this year were well advanced and would have provided valuable income to keep the project afloat; we have had to cancel these.
Without income and with ongoing expenses to pay for the Northern Belle's storage, the forecast for the Trust's finances is unsustainable. We have exhausted every avenue we think possible to reduce outgoings and to find emergency income sources.
As Trustees, we have a responsibility to ensure the Trust remains solvent. Given the situation described above, we have resolved to try to find a new home for the Northern Belle, while we complete the items of work in progress.
In 2019, we successfully raised enough money to enable us to meet ongoing storage costs and undertake a feasibility survey to establish whether her restoration would be viable. The survey will be completed and will be made publicly available, once social distancing restrictions allow and we hope this report will be of future benefit.
The decision to try to re-home the Northern Belle has not been taken lightly by the Trust. We are bitterly disappointed with this outcome however the Trust remains focused on securing the best possible future for the Northern Belle."
For more information, contact the Northern Belle Trust via their website